December 25, 2009
Dear faithful readers:
On this day, as any other, a trip on Hallandale Beach Blog's Time Machine is never for the faint of heart or the intellectually dis-honest.
First, the set-up piece:
RESIDENTS: KEEP RELIGION OFF DISPLAY - COMMISSION AGREES, CHANGES HOLIDAY PLANSSouth Florida Sun-Sentinel
October 8, 1997
The move, however, has landed the city in church-and-state hot water
Several upset residents, including Alan R. Griffith, a lawyer, have warned officials against using taxpayer's money to erect religious symbols on public property.
The lighting display, the city's fifth in a row, kicks off Nov. 22.
"We hold both the city and its employees responsible for making such an unwise decision accountable," Griffith told commissioners in an Oct. 1 letter. "Please be advised that we take the Constitution very seriously and will, if necessary, seek help of the courts to protect its provisions."
Joy Cooper, an activist who also criticized the proposed use of religious symbols, said she would be willing to sue the city.
"The government has no right to get involved in religion," Cooper said.
She is concerned that city officials might some day add a cross or a nativity scene to the display.
Fearing a nasty court challenge from the residents, commissioners on Tuesday backed down from their plan with a 4-1 vote, leaving Lanner an angry man.
The symbols would have cost the city $3,000.
"I'm very unhappy about it," Lanner said. "I feel it's a holiday that denotes the two major religions [Christianity and Judaism)."
When commissioners unanimously approved Lanner's request in January, they thought the city was "mature" enough to deal with the change. But the public protest continued to mount as the holiday season approached.
City Attorney Dick Kane has told commissioners that it is probably illegal to use tax dollars for such purposes, but Lanner is not so sure.
Lanner said he could not understand why the federal government can spend tax dollars to erect a giant Christmas tree on the White House lawn and Hallandale can not do something similar.
He pointed out that Broward County's main library, a tax-supported facility, also displays a Christmas tree.
"Where do you draw the line," Lanner said. "It's kind of saying Christmas doesn't exist; it's kind of saying Hanukkah doesn't exist."
Commissioner Sonny Rosenberg said many Jewish residents requested that a menorah be part of the holiday display. But the latest uproar made him realize that there are more people who don't want one.
"If it's illegal, I think we ought to obey the law," Rosenberg said. "We don't always [do that), but in this case we will."
Lanner is still not convinced.
"I think we have to be more lenient as far as religion is concerned in the city of Hallandale," Lanner said.
City officials launch the display each year with a lighting ceremony and entertainment in the Diplomat Mall's parking lot. It illuminates Hallandale Beach Boulevard with thousands of colorful lights.
Cooper and Griffith, who have small children, said they love the event. But they want it to remain a holiday display _ not a religious celebration.
"I like it the way it is now," Cooper said. "I don't think it needs to be bigger, I don't think it needs religion in it.
In the City of Hallandale Beach, though there are literally dozens of self-evident public safety and Quality-of-Life issues that city employees really ought to be spending their time on first, something I only mention here constantly, city employees are often dispatched to work on matters that seem to have very little to do with the real priorities of a living, working city.
In my opinion, that's the case with the city's annual holiday lights display on Hallandale Beach Blvd., often BEFORE Election Day in the first week of November, as was the case last year.
Above, South Beach Hoosier photo of holiday light display on HBB, looking southwest from in front of Boston Market, November 6, 2009, a month before the official ceremony.
This attitude by HB City Hall is nothing new, though, as the year of Hurricane Wilma, three years ago, city employees were busy working on putting-up holiday lights in front of Hallandale Beach City Hall (on the U.S.-1 side, due to road construction on HBB) even while there were complaints
about piles of garbage and debris on city streets and curbs all over the city, even right near City Hall, many of which I saw for myself.
In fact, even as I saw the lights go up, the STOP signs in the city's very own parking lot were lying on the ground, where they'd remain for WEEKS.
Because that's the way they like to do things.
Logic and reason?
Where do you think you are?
Who has time to deal with public safety when there are holiday lights to go up?
In fact, the first day that they city started putting those lights-up three years ago -a three day process as it turned out- I was talking on my cell phone to a Miami Herald reporter about the city's rather dismal cleanup effort compared to next door Aventura and Hollywood as I came across the workers wrapping lights around palm trees.
And what about the Sun-Sentinel article at the top of this post from 12-years ago, that revolved around city residents' concerns about the city placing religious items, to wit, a menorah and a nativity scene, on city property, including "activist" Joy Cooper among others?
When push came to shove, though, what has history shown us has actually happened in the intervening years?
Well, since I've been living here, it seems like every mid-December, I suddenly see a giant menorah emerge out of nowhere, placed near the entrance to the city's beach at State Road A1A and HBB.
It's NOT sponsored by some private group, it's the city's.
(And in any case, it's PUBLIC property.)
No, there's nothing there that says a generic "Happy Holidays" nor are there cheery plastic candy canes, but rather an actual menorah, often propped-up by sand bags as I recall.
Frankly, it looks both sad and pathetic, especially after it's fallen and is just lying there on the ground.
What do you know, here's a photo I snapped of the menorah from last year, Dec. 26th to be exact.
Above,looking east from State Road A1A/S. Ocean Drive sidewalk. December 26, 2008 photo by South Beach Hoosier
And more recently you ask? Well, how about Dec. 19th, last Saturday?December 19, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier
And what about the situation right in front of Hallandale Beach City Hall itself?
Here are some photos I took on of light displays there, one of a menorah and the other of a three-piece silhouette that, to my eyes at least, looks exactly like your standard generic Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus.
Not exactly Sugar Plum fairies or Nut Crackers or reindeer...
Or am I wrong in my description?
Above, December 24, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier looking west at entrance to Hallandale Beach City Hall on U.S.-1 from the sidewalk in front of Village at Gulfstream.
December 22, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.
Directly in front of Hallandale Beach City Hall.
Dec. 22, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier. Directly in front of Hallandale Beach City Hall.
Dec. 22, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier. Menorah decoration in front of Chabad of South Broward, on HBB, which suffered a lot of flooding damage a week ago.
Nobody cares about this one being here since it's on private property.
Dec. 20, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.
The U.S.-1 sign right near the religious displays in front of Hallandale Beach City Hall.
To the right is the near pitch black HB City Hall parking lot, a recurring Guest Star of so many
previous posts here on the blog for obvious safety reasons.
Not that that the city has shown the slightest inkling to resolve the self-evident public safety
problem there they all know about...
That's how they do things in the City of Hallandale Beach under Joy Cooper and Mike Good.
Thanks for taking this trip aboard the Hallandale Beach Blog Time Machine.